If you love to golf, you might be surprised at how yoga can transform your game. Even as an amateur, this ancient discipline can help you slash strokes like a pro. Hitting the greens creates imbalances throughout the body that can result in pain, injury, and general stiffness. Yoga’s focus on balance, alignment, and symmetry creates space in the body, allowing for greater rotation and increased power. Incorporating yoga postures into your warm-up and post-round stretches are simple ways to help prevent against injuries, while adding flexibility and focus to your game.
Prevent Injury & Reduce Pain
Bodies work holistically, so the impairment of one part affects others. Eventually, the entire body can be thrown off balance because of one discrepancy. Tight hips, for example, can cause the forearms and wrists to overcompensate during a swing. Weak core muscles can cause back pain and strained shoulders. Yoga alleviates the causes of these symptoms by adding flexibility, strength, and alignment where they’re needed.
Lengthening your muscles by stretching stimulates greater flexibility; there is no question about that. It also reduces tension in your tendons and ligaments, encouraging the free flow of lubricating fluids. Holding poses for a long time, while breathing deeply, sends freshly oxygenated blood to your muscles and ligaments. This speeds up the healing process, repairs damage, and reduces inflammation.
Gain Flexibility & Strength
A strong and flexible core will create a powerful drive. Inflexible hips and shoulders can cause other parts of your body to overcompensate when you swing. This can wear you down quickly! Gentle yoga stretches help aid in recovery, while more dynamic poses build strength in weaker or neglected muscles. Many yoga poses provide both stretching and strength-building. A typical yoga class will flex and employ every part of your body, creating overall suppleness and power. Emphasis on proper posture and correct alignment is key. Slower and more precise styles of yoga, like Iyengar or Anusara, are helpful to learn the basics.
Shepherds may have created the first "golf" game about 2,000 years ago, but yoga was developed in India nearly 5,000 years ago!
Improve Mental Focus
Yoga’s emphasis on non-competiveness can allow golfers to remember the joy and fun of movement. The breathing and meditation techniques in yoga can increase your ability to concentrate and visualize every swing. The yoga principle of "aparigraha," a Sanskrit word for "non-grasping," can create a mindset that is focused on the present moment. When you apply aparigraha, you let go of the previous shots. You become mindful only of the current moment, allowing the mechanics of that swing to flow naturally.
The idea is to face challenge with equanimity. The yoga is not in the ability to do the pose, the yoga is in the approach you take towards it.
Yoga Poses for Golfers
Begin incorporating these poses into your warm-up and cool-down. Hold each pose for several breaths, but come out of any if you feel pinching or jarring pain. Move slowly in and out of each pose. Keep your breath smooth and even. If you’re struggling to breathe, ease up. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. Take it easy, and have fun!
Full Body Stretch: Downward-Facing Dog
One of the most-recognized yoga poses in the West, Downward-Facing Dog – Adho Mukha Svanasana (Ah-doh MOO-kuh shvan-AHS-uh-nuh) — energizes and rejuvenates the entire body. Do not practice if you have severe carpal tunnel syndrome or are in late-term pregnancy.
- Begin in Table Pose, on your hands and knees. The fold of your wrists should be parallel with the top edge of your mat; your middle fingers should point directly to the top edge of your mat. With your feet hip-distance apart, exhale and lift your knees off the floor. Gently begin to straighten your legs, but do not lock your knees. As you lengthen your spine, lift your sit bones up toward the ceiling. Press down equally through your heels and the palms of your hands.
- Firm the outer muscles of your arms and press your index fingers into the floor. Lift from the inner muscles of your arms to the top of your shoulders. Draw your shoulder blades into your upper back ribs and down towards your tailbone. Relax your head between your upper arms, but do not let it dangle.
- Hold for 5-100 breaths. Gently bend your knees with an exhalation and come back into Table Pose to release.
Core Strengthener: Plank Pose
Also referred to as High Push-Up Pose, Plank Pose — Kumbhakasana (koom-bahk-AHS-uh-nuh) — tones the abdominal muscles while strengthening the arms and spine.
- Begin on your hands and knees, with your wrists directly under your shoulders.
- Spread your fingers and press down through your forearms and hands. Do not let your chest collapse.
- Gaze down, lengthening the back of your neck and drawing your abdominal muscles toward your spine.
- Tuck your toes and step back with your feet, bringing your body and head into one straight line.
- Keep your thighs lifted and take care not to let your hips sink too low. If your butt sticks up in the air, realign your body so your shoulders are directly above your wrists.
- Draw your pelvic floor muscles toward your spine as you contract your abdominal muscles.
- To deepen the pose, try lifting one leg at a time.
- Hold for five breaths, and then slowly lower your whole body onto the floor and rest.
For a greater challenge, perform Plank on your forearms. Line up your elbows under your shoulders and interlace your fingers. Curl your toes under, lift your knees, and bring your body into one straight line.
Full Back Flexibility: Reclined Spinal Twist
Twists are great ways to decompress, squeezing the anxiety and frustrations out of your day, like wringing out a sponge. They also stimulate and detoxify the organs of your torso. Reclined Spinal Twist is a great pose for this:
- To begin, lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat. You can rest your head on a pillow or blanket if your neck hurts. Extend your arms to the side, with your shoulder blades on the floor.
- As you exhale, drop your knees to the left as you gently turn your head to the right. Soften your gaze as you keep your shoulder blades pressing towards the floor and away from your ears. Allow the force of gravity to drop your knees even closer to the floor.
- Hold the pose for several breaths. Then on an inhalation, slowly bring your knees back to your chest. Exhale, and release your legs to the right.
- When you’re finished with the pose, hug your knees to your chest for a few breaths, then slowly exhale as you extend your legs along the floor.
Lower Back Recovery: Child’s Pose
Often used as a resting position, Child’s Pose — Balasana (bah-LAHS-uh-nuh) — helps to stretch the hips, thighs, and ankles while reducing stress and fatigue.
- Start on your hands and knees, and then spread your knees wide while keeping your big toes touching.
- Exhale as you bow forward, letting your torso drape between your thighs. Then keep your arms long and extended. Place your forehead on the floor or on a pillow.
- Bring your arms to rest alongside your thighs, with your palms facing up.
- Hold for up to a minute or longer, breathing softly.
Hip Flexibility: One-Legged King Pigeon Pose
Usually just called Pigeon Pose – Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (EKK-uh PAHD-uh RAH-juh-KA-poh-TAHS-uh-nuh) — this is a powerful hip opener. It relieves tension in the chest and shoulders and stimulates the abdominal organs. Do not practice if you have a knee or ankle injury.
- Begin in Downward-Facing Dog, or on your hands and knees in Table Pose.
- Bring your right knee between your hands, placing your right ankle near your left wrist. Extend your left leg behind you, with your kneecap and the top of your foot on the floor.
- Press through your fingertips as lift your torso away from your thigh, lengthening the front of your body. Release your tailbone back toward your heels.
- Exhaling, fold your upper body forward over your right shin. Draw down through the front shin and balance your weight evenly between your right and left hips.
- Hold for up to one minute. To release, press through your hands to gently lift your torso off the mat, tuck your back toes, and lift into Downward-Facing Dog. Repeat on the other side.
Place a folded blanket or yoga block under the hip of your front leg for extra support!
Stretch Your Game
Yoga can be a fun way for golfers to gain flexibility, balance, and strength. Clear your mind with yoga and get ready to power up your game!